Angst (1983)



25 October 2019| Comments Off on Angst (1983)     by Sean Chavel


Most films are ready-made pedestrian efforts that use conventional film language that we’ve spent a lifetime digesting until it has dulled our senses. It’s a special detour from the norm to see a film open with a floating and gliding shot that takes the ordinary and looks at it with new eyes. Angst, which disarms and unnerves us right away, is the everlasting controversial Austrian film about a killer released from prison who goes on a murder spree the same day he’s out. Immediately, everything the camera captures feels either like omnipresent entropy in the universe, or when the camera pulls in more intimately, like a small child’s uncultivated viewpoint of the world.

Unofficially based on the story of mass murderer Werner Kniesek (as played with wayward twitchiness by Erwin Leder), this killer parolee moments into his freedom simply cases locations and studies potential victims that cross his path in the under-five seconds of short attention span he has.

It’s not long before the killer prowls and finds the perfect house for him, one that is the right amount of unkempt condition and semi-secluded, one also adorned with multiple driveways and exit tunnels and gates; inside, he will discover a trio of potential victims who appear not to be his physical equal.

Angst will be a horrid and tasteless kind of snuff film for some, for we essentially observe him on the spot construct his perfect murders for pleasure — and carry them out — as if done in real time. The affectless voice-overs discern to us the killer’s humiliating and troubled child history while he is acting out, and those words prove to be welcoming as they do explain, as well as convince, how he turned out as he did. We might even get the idea that he knows the difference between right and wrong, and that he has common mental cognition. But his only turn-on in life, what he lives for, is performing sadism on others.

The title of the film translates to “Fear” in our language, which makes appropriate as the film builds and arrives at a final conclusion that suggests he will perform anything sinister, even carelessly, if there is promise that he will instantaneously incite fear and repulsion. One argument against the film is that we don’t need movies like this to exist at all… except I think we do: When it is an insightful one, like Angst, that puts us that unblinkingly close to the pain and pleasure principle of a lost mind, we can start to deconstruct the deviant minds in society and come up with ways to prevent and heal.

My simplest interpretation: He’s still a child who never adapted to a world where food and drink, social interaction, the interest in the written word, gentle play and exercise, can mean anything to him. It’s all about instant gratification to generate fear and disgust; nobody taught him the joy of gentle touch as pleasure, and for him, it was probably too late for his conditioned mind to have ever re-learned. This savage, in this case, is long past capable of healing.

This is one of 1983’s best films, yet, if such depictions of bestial behavior appall or disturb you then it is not a necessary film to see, but only to understand.

79 Minutes. Unrated but Adults Only.


Film Cousins: “The Boston Strangler” (1968); “A Clockwork Orange” (1971); “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1986); “I Stand Alone” (1998, France).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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